Minor League Report.

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AAA: SWB rained out

AA: Trenton rained out.

High A: Tampa (63-71) split a DH.

Reg. sched. game: Lost 4-0, getting just 2 hits. SS Diego Castillo’s 3 errors led to 3 unearned runs.

Makeup of 8/27 rainout: Won 5-3. Castillo 2 hits, RBI. 1B Steven Sensley 2 hits, 2 RBI.

Low A: Charleston (69-66) lost 8-5. LF Canaan Smith 2 hits, .306. RF Josh Stowers 2 RBI. C Eduardo Navas 3 hits, 2 RBI. 2 solo HR.

 

Prospects heading for the Arizona Fall League.

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From MLB.com

Yankees (Surprise): Daniel Bies, RHP; Glenn Otto, RHP; Donny Sands, C; Josh Stowers, OF; Brandon Wagner, 1B

Acquired from the Mariners in an offshoot of the Sonny Gray trade in January, Stowers has a chance to have four average or better tools, with his arm the lone exception. Otto has had difficulty staying healthy but can reach 97 mph and devastate hitters with his curveball when he’s at 100 percent.

Is Corey Seager in the Yanks’ sights?

The Gleyber Torres at SS experiment failed. He’s going back to 2B. Gio Urshela was a stopgap but he isn’t a SS. So the Yanks admit they need a SS. There are a lot of top SS on the market in free agency this year. Are the Yanks targeting Corey Seager?

(And before I go on, did you notice how poorly Didi Gregorius did (.209) with the Phillies this year?)

Seager checks a lot of boxes. 2x All-Star. Former Rookie of the Year. NLCS MVP. WS MVP. 2x Silver Slugger. 3x MVP consideration, twice finishing in the top 10. That doesn’t even include any accolades he may get for this season.

Lefty hitter for a righty-dominated lineup. Lefty hitter for Yankee Stadium. 25-30 HR capability, but WITHOUT the low batting average (.297 career hitter). 27 years old, in his prime. OPS+ 131 for his career (average is 100). His 162 game average is .297-26-93.

Seems like a perfect fit, and scouts think he would have to be moved to third later on. The Yanks could use him at SS for a couple years until either Oswald Peraza or Anthony Volpe is ready at SS (with apologies to current 3B Gio Urshela).

Seems like a perfect fit. Won’t come cheap. The Yanks have admitted the need for a SS. Will Hal, Cashman, etc. go all-in for Seager?


In other news: 1B coach/OF coach Reggie Willets is leaving the Yanks to become an assistant coach at his alma mater, Oklahoma.

Yanks bring back Boone as manager on 3 yr deal with option for 4th year.

Some coaches may be gone, but the manager stays. Aaron Boone will return as Yankees manager, getting a new 3 yr. deal through 2024 with an option for 2025.

What next? Relief pitching, and summarizing it all up.

The Yankees bullpen was alright in 2021, but there were some concerns. Aroldis Chapman came out incredibly good, then was incredibly bad, then was someone you had concerns about. He did have 30 saves and an ERA of 3.36, but (and we were spoiled by Mariano), it seemed like nothing came easy. Personally, I feel as if Chapman wants to throw the ball through a brick wall all the time. He should concentrate on command and control. 2 MPH off the fastball wouldn’t hurt as long as he locates it. It seems like he just wants to throw hard and often has no clue where the ball is going.

The best reliever by far was Jonathan Loaisiga, 9-4, 2.17 but he has had shoulder problems in the past and had some at the end of the year. Hopefully rest in the off-season will let him recuperate, but you have to have concerns.

Lucas Luetge was a big, pleasant surprise with a 2.74 ERA. Chad Green was actually second on the team to Cole in wins (10) but Green concerns me. It seems to me in big moments he falters. It’s one thing to put up good numbers vs. say, the Tigers, but then against Houston, Boston, Toronto etc. falter. There is something about Green I just don’t trust in big spots.

It was a lost year for Zack Britton, and 2022 will be also. Don’t expect much there, and Darren O’Day may retire after having a lost season himself.

Cashman made mistakes in Gallo and Heaney, but did pull rabbits out of a hat with not only Luetge, but Peralta, Holmes and Joely Rodriguez all did well after Cashman picked them up. Michael King works better out the the bullpen than as a starter and did ok. I think he should stay there. Depending on who gets the #5 starter spot next year, someone like Cortes or German could slip into the bullpen next year, as well as maybe Gil or Schmidt.

Some youngsters didn’t fare as well. Abreu (5.15 ERA) got his feet wet and hopefully improves in 2022. Nick Nelson (8.79 ERA) was awful.

Justin Wilson was a bad pickup and was dealt to Cincy. No problem there, but I don’t know why Luis Cessa was dealt. Cessa had a 2.82 ERA with the Yanks and continued a good year with Cincy, posting an even better 2.05 ERA with the Reds. Cessa was 5-2, 2.51 overall and it’s one move I am still scratching my head over.

One guy who intrigues me is Stephen Ridings, who came out of nowhere to pitch in five games for the Yanks this year.

The Yanks let go of Brooks Kriske, who was dreadful, as well as Sal Romano and Brody Koerner.

The bullpen wasn’t bad. I don’t expect big moves here, but the loss of Britton does hurt.

Summary of everything: The strength of a team is up the middle and the Yanks need to improve there.
C: Sanchez, disappointing on defense, and despite 23 HR, still hit just .204. His last four years have been .186, .232, .147 and .204. Yuk.
SS: Torres isn’t a SS. They need either a short-term solution (Andrelton Simmons) until Peraza or Volpe are ready or if they want a big splash, you have a lot of top free agents out there (Corey Seager for example).
Lastly CF: you can’t have a 38 year old CF (Gardner) and Hicks is injury prone and you don’t know what you’ll get from him—and Hicks is locked into a long-term deal.

The Yanks need to work on C, SS and CF. We’ll see what the offseason brings.

LCS’s set; managers gone

Since the Yanks are out and I’ve been busy (and very tired), I haven’t watched too intently. I tune in now and then to see what’s going on.

Well, the LCS’s are set. After Boston eliminated the Yanks in the wild card game, they beat Tampa Bay 3 games to 1. Houston beat the Chicago White Sox 3 games to 1. So the ALCS is Boston, who Yankee fans love to hate, vs. Houston, who still isn’t forgiven for the cheating scandal. Ugh.

The NLCS features the Dodgers, who won the wild card game over the Cardinals and who then advanced by squeaking past the Giants in 5, and the Braves, who beat the Brewers 3 games to 1. Dodgers/Braves.

A couple of managers got canned. Openings now available with the Mets, Padres and surprisingly, Cardinals.

Yanks let a few coaches go.

The Yankees hitting this year was disappointing, and as a result, hitting coach Marcus Thames and assistant hitting coach P.J. Pilettere were let go today. The Yanks finished 2021 with a .237 batting average, 13th in the league out of 15 teams. They were 10th in runs scored. 13th in hits. Last in doubles. Next to last in triples. They were third in HR and led the league in walks but the OPS+ of 100 was just league average. They were just 11th in total bases. As a result, heads rolled.

Another head to roll was 3B coach Phil Nevin. 23 runners were thrown out at home this year and base running was generally awful.

We will see if more changes will be made.

Fosse, catcher hurt by Rose in 1970 All-Star Game, dies.

In the 1970s, the question of who the best catcher was in the AL came down to Thurman Munson and Carlton Fisk. It could have involved a third catcher—-Ray Fosse.

Fosse died yesterday at the age of 74 after a 16 year battle with cancer. He’s remembered as the catcher Pete Rose bowled over to win the 1970 All-Star Game for the NL. Fosse suffered a fractured and separated left shoulder on the play, the injury wasn’t known and he actually caught a full game two days later. He was never the same, however.

Fosse played for the Cleveland Indians (1967-1972), Oakland A’s (1973-1975), back with the Indians (1976-1977), Seattle Mariners (1977), and Milwaukee Brewers (1979). He was a 2x All-Star (1970, 1971) who won the Gold Glove Award in each of those years. He finished 23rd in the MVP voting in 1970.

Fosse won two WS rings as catcher for the A’s in 1973 and 1974.

Plagued by injuries other than the carryover of the Rose collision, Fosse played in 100 or more games in a season just four times, 1970-1973. His best year was 1970, when he hit .307-18-61, OPS+ 124.

For his career, he hit .256 with an OPS+ of 90. In 22 postseason games, he hit .172 with 2 HR and 7 RBI.

After his playing career ended, he became an A’s broadcaster for many years.

What now? Starting pitching.

As the 2021 season started, it was expected that the Yanks had a strong lineup, with questions as far as the pitching goes. As the season progressed, however, the hitting was inconsistent, posting an average OPS+ of 100, with a poor .237 batting average. It was the pitching, with a 115 ERA+ and 3rd in the league ERA that carried them.

A key to 2022 will be the return of Luis Severino, who looked good in his brief appearance at the end of 2021. What can he give in 2022 after missing almost 3 full seasons? He has pitched in only 7 games since 2018. If he is back to the Severino of old, and can stay healthy for the full season, a top 3 of Cole, Severino and Montgomery is strong.

It will be interesting to see who the #4 starter will be. Corey Kluber slots in well here if the Yanks re-sign the free agent. Kluber did well, even pitching a no-hitter, but missed 1/2 the season with injury. Health is the key. A front four of Cole, Severino, Montgomery and Kluber is formidable.

If you can keep those four healthy, then a competition for #5 between Jameson Taillon, Domingo German, Clarke Schmidt, Michael King (who is better in relief), Nestor Cortes and Luis Gil will be a healthy competition (barring any of those being traded).

Deivi Garcia needs to work out his problems at AAA after a terrible 2021 season.

Pitchers who may make the majors in 2022 could be Garcia (#11 prospect) if he rebounds, Luis Medina who is the #8 prospect, J.P. Sears, #9 prospect Ken Waldichuk, #15 prospect Hayden Wesneski, and #20 prospect Randy Vazquez.

Andrew Heaney is a free agent. It’s safe to say the Yanks will not be going after him. (I sure as heck hope not). Heaney’s time in NY was a complete failure.

In the end, I don’t know if the Yanks will trade for a starter or pursue one on the free agent market, other than maybe re-signing Kluber. The key is having Kluber and Severino healthy all year. Having that enables a nice healthy competition for the #5 and the long man/spot starter roles.

Re-sign Kluber? Or break the bank for Robbie Ray, who is a free agent and possibly the AL CYA winner this year? I wouldn’t break the bank for Ray, who had a great 2021, but who was 49-51, 4.26 before his breakout year. One year wonder? I also don’t see other free agents like Verlander, Greinke, Wacha, Happ (been there), Pineda (been there too), Lester, Kershaw, Scherzer, Bauer (yuk, what a scumbag—toxic), Cueto, Gausman, Wood, Arrietta, Chacin being options. Some big names would be nice, but I don’t think the Yanks are going there nor do I think someone like Scherzer would come to NY.

In the end, I think the key is re-signing Kluber to a decent contract, maybe similar to what he got last year, and hoping he and Severino stay healthy for all of 2022 will be the way the Yanks go.

Update of C/Infield: Apparently the Yanks were after Twins SS Andrelton Simmons at the trade deadline this past season. He could be a short-term free agent option until Peraza or Volpe are ready. He wouldn’t provide much with the bat (88 OPS+) but is a 4x Gold Glove winner.

Heaney becomes free agent.

The left-hander elected free agency on Friday instead of accepting an outright assignment.

https://nypost.com/2021/10/08/yankees-letting-andrew-heaney-walk-after-poor-stretch/

What next? A look at the OF and DH.

In the previous posts, we looked at the owner, manager and front office in Part 1, and catcher and infield in Part 2.

Today, DH and the outfield. What do the Yanks have to do here?

They have a few dilemmas. A couple they created for themselves, and a couple they haven’t.

As I wrote in a previous post, the strength of a team is up the middle. The Yanks have faults at catcher with Sanchez, SS (Torres isn’t a SS, proven) and CF. We’ve discussed C and SS. Now to CF, a problem the Yanks created for themselves.

First off, the ridiculous contract they gave to Aaron Hicks. Signed through 2025, team option for 2026. Hicks has only played in 100 or more games in a season twice in his career. In one of those two seasons, he hit .217 with an OPS+ of 65 (35% below league average of 100). He’s always hurt. This past season, he played in only 32 games, hitting .194 with an OPS+ of 73. He’s a .233 lifetime hitter. He’s 32. This contract takes him into his mid-30’s. The switch-hitting is nice, esp. on a team too righty-oriented. But with all the injuries you wonder if he is now an old 32. As I mentioned with Luke Voit, you can’t help if you are always on the IL. In the last three seasons COMBINED (and yes, I do realize 2020 was a Covid-shortened 60 game season), Hicks has only played in 145 games, hitting .223. #2 prospect Jasson Dominguez is only 18, a few years away. Hicks will be manning the position for a while it seems. I can’t see anyone picking up the contract unless the Yanks ate some money. But with Hicks being so injury prone, that leads us to a backup or platoon CF.

Of which I don’t think Brett Gardner is the answer. Gardner is 38. He turns 39 next August. He wants to return. Teams don’t win with 38-39 year old center fielders (and even if he returns to LF, …). He played much more than expected in 2021 because of necessity. He hit .222 with an OPS+ of 90. He hit .223 the year before. He doesn’t run anymore (just 4 SB in 2021, 3 in 2020). So what was one of his best assets is gone. He’s averaged .236 over the past four years. It’s time to let him go.

So you can’t rely on Hicks to stay healthy (and remember, he’s only a .233 lifetime hitter) and Gardner is old. Which means you got to find someone good to platoon in CF with Hicks or possibly start in CF. That will soon bring us to two players who the Yanks need to make decisions on who really are NOT centerfielders.

(By the way, an update of the last post about the infield and SS prospects. I should have also mentioned last year’s #1 draft pick, another SS in Trey Sweeney).

I don[t think Estevan Florial is the answer. Florial is 7 for 23 in his MLB career, but his flaws have not been exposed yet. It’s hard to trust him as an alternative to Hicks when Florial only hit .219 between AA/AAA this year. Florial will be 24 soon. Another prospect, Everson Pereira, hit .303 with 20 HR, but hasn’t played above high A. Dominguez and Pereira are considered higher prospects (2 and 13) than Florial (21). They are years away. Tyler Wade has the speed to play CF, not the bat. Do you trust Greg Allen or Jonathan Davis to be with the team full-time to back up in the OF and take over CF if Hicks gets hurt again? Allen provides a decent speed look as a backup, but regular if Hicks is hurt? Probably not. The Yanks need a short-term better CF option because 1) Hicks is always hurt. 2) Prospects are years away. 3) Gardner probably has emptied the tank.

Which leads us to two youngsters the Yanks have to decide on. Can the Yankees get anything for Clint Frazier and/or Miguel Andujar? Has the concussion Frazier suffered derailed his career? He just hit .186 in 2021 with an OPS+ of 73. If there is going to be continuous repercussions from that concussion, you have to move on. As mentioned, you can’t help a team if you are on the IL all of the time. The Yanks have to make a decision on whether or not to keep Frazier or deal him. That time is now. Especially if he may not get much playing time if Joey Gallo (more on him later) returns. Frazier isn’t a prospect anymore. He is 27, and it’s put up or shut up time for someone whose lifetime BA is only .239.

The same goes with Andujar, who seems to be a man without a position. The Yanks are trying him at 3B, LF, 1B. It would be nice if Andujar could play CF short-term, but he doesn’t. Andujar hit 47 doubles in 2018. Since then, 4—in 263 at bats. Since that great 2018 season, Andujar has only hit .228, .253 this season. His OPS+ this year was only 82. Combined with Torres, the failures of Frazier, Andujar and Torres have set the Yankees back (not to mention Sanchez not achieving what was deemed to be his potential). How long do you wait on these players? You hate to give up on young talent, but you got to know when the cut the cord and move on as well. Will they achieve their potential? If not, why are they still here? And with Gallo (I’m getting there), not to mention Urshela, Andujar, like Frazier, is blocked for playing time. Prime trade options if you can get anything for them.

Ok, that finally leads be to Gallo. One sportswriter says he looked like an OF version of Sonny Gray. A deer in the headlights once he got to NY. Another low-average, HR-or-nothing, high-strikeout guy. Why bring in guys like him and Odor (another low-average, HR-or-nothing, high-strikeout guy) from Texas, a team that has been poor since 2016? Too many low average, high strikeout guys. Not enough contact hitters. More a beer-league softball team than a baseball team. Hit homers but strike out a lot. No bunting. No hit and run. No stolen bases. Can’t run the bases well. Sheesh. Gallo’s HR (13 as a Yankee, 38 overall) were the only thing ok about a season that produced a .199 batting average (career .206). He led the majors with 213 strikeouts. He led the AL with 111 walks. Walk, HR or whiff. His defense was good, but there were a couple drops in the last week. But as a Yankee he hit .160. Do the Yanks keep him, hoping for 40 HR (and putting up with .200 and 200 strikeouts) or trade him for a contact hitter? And whether it is Gallo or that contact hitter in LF (hopefully not the aged Gardner), any one of those is blocking Frazier and Andujar. Like with the infield, things need to be sorted out and stabilized, and that may mean lots of cleaning house. Trades. Including some fan favorites, or as mentioned, Gallo, Frazier, and/or Andujar.

I didn’t get to Judge and Stanton because they were great and aren’t going anywhere. Judge is the face of the franchise. Stanton has the huge contract. The Yanks do have to wonder about $$ though. Cole and Stanton already have huge deals. Judge will need to be signed soon, and what do you think he will get? Then, if the Yanks go after a SS like Seager, Story, Semien, Baez …. more cash. Congress won’t be the only ones talking about raising the debt ceiling.

Stanton does have to play the OF more, like he did at the end of this season. He can’t clog up the DH spot. He, and Judge, need to stay healthy. Maybe the Yanks should alternate the two between DH/RF to make sure both stay healthy.

A backup CF. An OF who makes more contact, preferably a lefty hitter. Michael Conforto from the Mets is a free agent who can play all three OF positions. Interesting, especially if the Yanks decide Gallo was a failed experiment. Conforto won’t hit 40 HR like Gallo can, but his career OPS+ of 124 is higher than Gallo’s 114. Conforto has the NY experience and even played in a WS with a NY team.

Next up? Looking at the starting pitching.

What now? Catcher and infield.

This off-season, as the Yanks reassess their team, how do deal with catcher and infield?

Last off-season, it was wondered if the Yanks would give Gary Sanchez another chance. They did, and the results weren’t too great. The defense was still sub-par, with a couple of plays boggling one’s mind. You wonder about his attitude, too. Some base-running blunders by Sanchez also made you scratch your head. Then there is the bat. Yes, he hit 23 HR. The OPS+ was 99, a tick below league average of 100. The batting average was .204. Sanchez in the last four years has hit .186, .232, .147 and .204. A cumulative .201 over the past four years. Yes, he can give you 20+ or, in a decent year, 30+ HR. He also gives you a low batting average, poor defense and bad base-running. In the past two postseasons, he was bypassed for Kyle Higashioka in do-or-die games. You have to ask if he’s worth it. Can the Yanks win with him? So far the answer is no on both counts, and he is high-maintenance. I would not be surprised if he is dealt this off-season, but who to replace him? Higashioka is a decent backup, but not more than that. Higashioka only hit .181 with an OPS+ of 71. 20 of his 35 hits were for extra bases, but he’s not a full-time catcher. So the question is, if you replace Sanchez, which is optimal, who do you replace him with? Sanchez’ potential hasn’t been reached. A shame.

C Donny Sands, #28 prospect, hit .268-18-56 between AA/AAA in 2021. A righty bat, 25 y.o.
Austin Wells, 22, lefty hitting catcher, #6 prospect .264-16-76, but hasn’t played above High A.
Josh Breaux ##18 prospect, righty bat, 24, hit .249-23-63 but hasn’t played above AA.
Former 1st round pick Anthony Seigler hasn’t played above High A and has only hit .217 in the minors.

So no one really close from the minors.

The infield has to be stabilized. I like Luke Voit, but he can’t help if he is always injured. Anthony Rizzo is a free agent. Rizzo provides the lefty hitting balance the Yankees need and is a better defender. Voit could be on the block, IF they can re-sign Rizzo. D.J. LeMahieu is also an option at 1B, although his best position is 2B. Gleyber Torres proved he isn’t a SS (more on SS later). His best position is 2B, but then what to do with D.J.? Gio Urshela was moved to SS and D.J. to 3B, but you don’t want guys playing positions that aren’t their best. D.J. is best at 2B. Urshela at 3B. So what to do with Torres, who has disappointed since hitting 38 HR in 2019? Since then Torres has just 12 HR. The OPS+ has dropped from 128 to 103 to 93. He’ll be 25 next year. Do you give up on him and trade him? His attitude and hustle were a problem this year. Can he get back to what he showed in his first two seasons? But you need stablility in the infield. If the Yanks keep Torres, it’ll surely be at 2B, so what to do with Urshela and LeMahieu (D.J. has a long-term deal).

As for SS, there is a glut of good free agent SS out there, and Corey Seager, a lefty hitter, is one. Seager, 27, has had OPS+ of 150 and 145 the past two seasons. MVP quality. The Yanks have two outstanding SS not far away. Do they get a SS for a short-term deal, or go after Seager on a long-term deal with the intent of moving him to 3B (getting rid of Gio) once one of these two kids is ready?

The kids:

Oswald Peraza #3 prospect: righty hitter, 21. .297-18-58, 38 SB at 3 levels (A+/AA/AAA) this year.
Anthony Volpe, #1 prospect. Righty hitter. 20. .294-27-86, 33 SB at Low and High A.

Then there is Oswaldo Cabrera, #16 prospect. Switch-hitter. .289-29-89, 21 SB between AA/AAA and he pays 2B/3B and SS.

Could any of these three be ready in 2022? 2023? If so, you may not need a long-term SS, just a short term one.

But defense at SS was a problem in 2021 with Torres. Velazquez D good, but he can’t hit. .184 career bat, and sure to be surpassed on the depth chart by one of the three kids listed. Wade isn’t a full-time solution either. He did hit a career-high .268 this year with 17 SB, but Wade is a .212 career hitter.

Short-term solution at SS and wait for the kids? Or go for broke, get one of the top free agent SS like Seager, Marcus Semien, Javier Baez, Trevor Story (forgive me if I miss anyone) with the intent of moving them (or one of the kids?) to a different position later on, which if that is the case, room must be made for the kids, either by trading them, or in dealing a Torres or Urshela.

But the infield needs to be stabilized. Better D at SS. And you can’t have guys hopping around the place. D.J. at 3 positions, Moving Torres from SS to 2B. Urshela from 3B to SS. Versatility is nice. But you need stability. This is where you play. Play it, and play it well. IF we have injuries, be ready, but concentrate on this one position. Stabilize the infield.

A few other points. With Voit hurt, and before they got Rizzo, 1B was a disaster. That, of course, needs to be remedied, hopefully with the re-signing of Rizzo, who provides lefty hitting balance (and why I prefer to break the bank for Seager). Like I said, I like Voit, but you can’t help the team if you are always on the IL.

Also, I am not sold on Odor. The Yanks have too many guys like him. Yes, he can hit 20 or 30 hr. Had 15 in a platoon role. Hit .202. Poor walk to K ratio. Since 2016 is a .213 career hitter.

Sanchez, Odor … Two guys who yes, can hit 20 or 30 HR a season. Two guys with batting averages of .201 and .213 over the last several seasons.

As my friend Josh has said for years … we want hitters, not sluggers.

Next? The outfield.